Bean Company Blasts Eminent Domain At Statehouse

House Panel OKs Bill That Would Make Plant's Seizure Harder

A fight between the state stadium authority and the owners of the N.K. Hurst bean plant spilled Monday into the Statehouse, where a House committee approved a bill that would make it harder to take private property by eminent domain.

The bill would prevent government from taking private property if the site's owners offer a reasonable alternative.

Such a law could affect the efforts of the Indiana Stadium and Convention Center Building Authority to seize the Hurst site, which the authority wants to use for a parking lot for a new Indianapolis Colts stadium.

The authority filed an eminent domain lawsuit last month to take the Hurst plant. Hurst owners noted the bill could help them because they believe they have offered a reasonable alternatives -- plans that would provide stadium parking while letting Hurst keep the plant.

Hurst owners say the authority refused for months to consider their ideas.

"It is a threat to our very survival as a business," said Jim Hurst, N.K. Hurst vice president in a speech before the Legislature. "Larger businesses may simply transfer operations to other pre-existing sites, where they may have the political clout that will protect them from even the threat of condemnation. For a small, family-owned, family-operated company like ours, the impact cannot be overstated."

An authority representative said the group would have no comment on the House committee's decision, which moves the bill to the full House.

Lobbyists for local governments told the committee that they don't like using eminent domain, but they often have no choice.

"Eminent domain, or condemning land rights, is not something that they want to do, and they do try to avoid it. After all, it is their own constituents' lands they have to take," said Jodie Woods, of the Association of Cities and Towns.

The authority filed its suit on Dec. 30. The bill is retroactive to Nov. 30.

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